Sea Stories and Other Dirty Lies, Movie Review: In the Loop

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Movie Review: In the Loop

I am grateful to the British facility with language for not having any tattoos anywhere on my skin, and for one of the best movies of recent times.

In 1961, I got blind drunk and went to a dark tattoo parlor somewhere in Singapore that only the cab driver could find. I had decided to certify my naval service in the most exotic surroundings that I could find. Fortunately for me, two talkative British seamen were ahead of me in line.

In those days, I considered myself not only a good sailor but an exceptionally fluent one, having learned to swear at an early age in rustic Oklahoma, refined my vulgar skill in the West Texas oil fields, and copied every trash-mouthed lowlife I had ever known. In just a minute of listening to the two Limeys, I realized that I was a first-day kindergartener in swearing. Another minute or two, and the shock from the sheer depravity of their language began to make me sick to my stomach. I staggered back to the taxi. It might have been the gin, or it might have been my fear about being tattooed, but I have always thought it was the British mastery of foul language that literally saved my skin.

The British claim to have originated English. Whether they did or not, they have certainly had longer to practice than we have. That’s why “In the Loop” is the funniest and most significant satire of late and possibly the best since Jonathan Swift, or at least since “Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” which was also about government officials and, I believe, was secretly British.

The theater was packed for the matinee on the third day of showing in Dallas. The five o’clock crowd, lined up and waiting when we came out, would easily fill the theater again. The reason for the big crowds, we surmised, might be explained another way than just that word-of-mouth had done its magic. We decided that the same people were watching the movie over and over, because no one could possibly have caught every joke in one sitting, and probably not in two or three.

If all the droll humor ever aired in season after season of “The Office,” both American and British versions, were packed into 106 minutes, and all the jokes from twenty seasons of “Saturday Night Live,” they might equal the humor compressed into this one movie. Of course, it wouldn’t be as funny, because it wouldn’t be as, well, as nasty.

A few prim people got up and left after the first swearing in, so to speak, of the characters in the film. Early leavers weren’t so remarkable as were the people leaving in a huff after 10 minutes, 20 minutes, or halfway through the film. The people who left, but didn’t leave right away, were not puritanical, no-cussing filmgoers. They were people who could stand some foul language in the movies, especially if it helped make the point, and the swearing in this movie not only carried the message but, to a significant extent, was the message. Different people left at different intervals because they had different tolerance levels for filth. They couldn’t take it. They maxed out on slime talk, just as I had done those many years past in Singapore.

I understand that “In the Loop” is actually a composite of a successful BBC series called, “The Thick of It,” with the same director and some of the same actors.

Why would anyone make such a TV series or movie? What possible purpose could writers have in assembling such foul, dirty, corrupt, venal, egotistical, tyrannical, cowardly, and traitorous fictional government officials? The filmmakers were attempting to portray the Americans and British officials involved in providing fake British intelligence to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

That’s my only criticism of the film. They weren’t filthy enough. In the Loop

Directed by Armando Iannucci, written by Tony Roche, Simon Blackwell, and Jesse Armstrong

Starring Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, James Gandolfini, Gina McKee, Simon Foster, Chris Addison, Anna Chlumsky, Mimi Kennedy and about a dozen other madpersons